Nairobi National Park, gazetted in December 1946, is Kenya’s oldest park and the only game park in the world that neighbours a capital city. It also contains Kenya’s most successful black rhino sanctuary.
As a dry-season grazing location, Nairobi National Park is largely dominated by migratory species. The number of eland, zebra, wildebeest and Coke’s hartebeest peaks during October, with a secondary peak in February. Sixty-three rhino were living in the park at last count, and births were recorded in April and June of 1995. Lion and Cheetah are sighted regularly and leopard less frequently. The populations of mixed grazers (Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, warthog and impala), continued bimonthly, are generally high throughout the year. Other year-round residents include ostrich, buffalo and small numbers of eland and hartebeest.
With one of the traditional migratory corridors across the Kapiti and Embakasi plains closed by industrialization as far as Thika and Ol Donyo Sabuk, wildlife dispersal now occurs mainly to the west of park into Kajiado and Kitengela and to the south toward Konza. Not coincidentally, zebra and wildebeest were at the lowest density ever recorded in the park in June 1994.
Community involvement and sympathetic management of the ecosystem is especially important if the remaining migratory corridors leading to Nairobi National Park are to be sustained. For this reason, park management participated in a rural appraisal scheme to find out how the communities in Kitengela District, which absorb much of the impact of the yearly migrations, feel about the park and wildlife. Issues that came to light were the need for living quarters for teachers, better school facilities and compensation for the loss of a cattle dip when the park was extended in 1976.
KWS-sponsored community-improvement projects in 1994-95 included construction of houses at Ereti and Oloosirkon primary schools, where teachers had been walking up to 20 km to and from work each day, with consequent poor results. Four classrooms were completed at Sholinge Primary School, where funds the community had raised in numerous harambees had run out with the school half finished. At Embakasi Primary School, on the park border, KWS rehabilitated old facilities and constructed two new classrooms, and it built a new cattle dip outside park boundaries for the Embakasi/kitengela community.
Nairobi is an all-weather park, which means that it is accessible to saloon cars throughout the year. Visitor numbers increased in 1994-95 to 166,455, compared to 131,713 the previous year. Vehicle numbers were up to 46,524 from 43,164.
Tourism development projects were key in 1994-95. The Maasai, Banda and Langata gates were redeveloped for better efficiency and to provide a more welcoming entrance to the park. The Hippo pools nature trail was targeted for improvements to ranger accommodation and visitor facilities. New signposts with clear information were constructed in a style complementary to the environment. A comprehensive grading and murram resurfacing programme was completed by contractors in May 1995. New vehicles and equipment were received under the JICA project and well maintained throughout the year. The World Bank donated Kshs 3,012,000 for the rehabilitation of six staff houses, completed by KWS Technical Services in June 1995.
Nairobi National Park’s golden anniversary will be celebrated in 1996-97 with events countrywide.